by Atsuro Ueki
The GID Workshop 2012 was held at Collaboration Complex––main base of KMD––in Hiyoshi campus, Keio University on November 23 in conjunction with the GID Symposium 2012. Members from all the participating schools worked together to provide a simulated experience of the GID Program during the full-day workshop. A mixed group of 23 students and non-students participated in the program. Everyone developed their own ideas at the workshop, rapidly made prototypes of them, and then gave presentations and shared their opinions in English.
The theme for this workshop was “Obento-bako” (Japanese lunchboxes). The obento-bako is a very simple object, as well as an integral part of our daily eating habits and a distinctively Japanese item. In addition, it has become very popular in the U.S. and Europe as a symbol of a healthy Japanese lifestyle. The English expression “It’s like an obento” carries the nuance of an object with many different elements packed into a single frame. Using the obento-bako motif as an entry point, the goal of the workshop was to design new forms of the obento-bako that would be suitable for the next generation.
The workshop featured a layout that assigned a single “island” (table) to each participating center and a format where workshop participants progressively fleshed out their ideas as they visited each island. There were three possible courses for visiting the islands. Participants could start out at any of the three centers—Japan (KMD), the U.S. (Pratt) or Britain (RCA/Imperial)—as long as they visited all three. They took part in a tutorial at each island highlighting the distinctive features of that center, progressively refining their individual ideas through trial and error in a diverse environment. It was a workshop that literally recreated the GID concept in a compact form.
Let us now take a brief look at the tutorial for each center. KMD provided a design tutorial based on user observation and fieldwork. At every stage of the design process, participants enhanced their ideas through interactions with society—by observing users and talking with them. Participants were able to get a better sense of what users really wanted by observing a convenience store and conducting user tests with their own prototypes. Pratt provided a design tutorial based on an exploration of materials and form. Participants searched for forms that felt comfortable in their own hands and original designs through a dialogue with the materials and discussions with other participants. They manipulated and combined different kinds of materials that were provided and integrated their physical experience of the materials, which can only be understood through direct contact, with their ideas. RCA/Imperial provided a design tutorial on divergent thinking. Using a different perspective of engineering, participants combined ideas based on their own experiences and the experiences of others and looked for unknown interactions. They each chose a mechanical structure to serve as a personal motif while fleshing out their ideas and made a prototype of it that could actually move. Looking at design from an engineering perspective radically expanded the range of possible applications and allowed participants to form connections between the world of the imagination and the real world.
The participants spent almost the entire day designing their own original obento-bako as they moved through this series of design processes. The workshop generated all kinds of ideas—an obento-bako package that could be hung from the waist or worn like an accessory, an obento-bako designed for parties with materials that popped out in a three-dimensional form when the box was opened, an obento-bako that facilitated communication with family members during meals—providing a stimulating experience for everyone.